Crowdfunding vs. Investors

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For the past few weeks I've been raising money to film one scene from my feature film, TITANIA.  The scene will be used to help illustrate what the film will look like, involve, and accomplish to major investors for principle photography.  

After three successful crowdfunding campaigns, we decided to go the route of wooing individual investors this time.  Besides the fact that all of my friends and family are "crowdfunded out" - we didn't want the hassle of it, to be frank. Several filmmakers recently, have expressed dismay at launching crowdfunding campaigns, mainly because they take up too much time and money.  You have to spend money on rewards, you have to spend time on rewards, and you have to answer to all the people who have funded you.  I support many crowdfunding campaigns, but once I've donated, I let it go - and am happy to see the finished film. Yesterday, on Twitter I saw one such indie filmmaker answer half a dozen tweets to backers about when her film would be released.  It takes time, and often schedules get stretched.  I felt for her, answering to so many complaining voices (and it hasn't been two months since she got funded!) - spending time doing that when she could have been working on the film, instead they added pressure to her already stressed mind. I've been there myself. Constant emails from people who didn't get their reward, or didn't see your updates, or want to hurry you up with production. Don't get me wrong, I'm extremely appreciative of their support, but this time out, we knew 1. we didn't have time, and 2. we needed to move into bigger waters.

It's hard to convince a few people to give you a lot of money. But if you believe in your project, then you're well on your way.  This is a very new process for me, and since the TITANIA production video diaries will be posted here, thought I'd blog about all our steps, in case it's helpful to others.  :)

We made a small investor packet because it's one scene, but still included all the important points. We need $15K for this first shoot.  (You can see the first page of the packet below) We consulted with a business man who has invested before, and a former in-house Disney producer on what we should include.  

  • Description of the film and contact info are givens
  • List of goals - put down what you've accomplished, what you're doing now, and what'll you'll be doing in the future. (you can see that below)
  • A detailed description of the Spring Scene (this first scene we want to film) and why we're filming it now, why it's groundbreaking and vital to the film.
  • Impressive (TRUTHFUL) bios of your key players - director, producer, DP, lead cast, composer, etc.
  • Press quotes about you that are flattering. So investors know you know what you're doing and have had success before. And anything that helps - for instance, when we did the TITANIA PREQUEL and crowdfunded for it - Kickstarter chose us as their project for the day - Thank you! We put that in there.
  • Investor Details - this is really important.  Let them know right away, there's always a risk with investing in film, because it depends on a somewhat unpredictable audience reaction. THEN let them know how they will get their money back: tax incentives, revenue from Film Annex ;), sale of the film, etc.
  • What else will you give them? Executive Producer credit. 15% added to their investment if they give over a certain amount.  List all of that.
  • LLC - if you're looking for big money - make your company an LLC and open a bank account for your company. This makes investors more comfortable, because it's not going into your own pocket.  It's really easy to become an LLC, don't pay an online company to do it for you - go right to your state government and get the forms. If you do something wrong, they will email you and tell you what and how to correct.  It was SO EASY to do this myself.  And saved me paying someone else.
  • We're in development, so we let them know how filming this scene would benefit the rest of the film: raise capital for principle photography, grow our fan base, and bring on a "name" actor we are pursuing.
  • Profit sharing - read up on this. Investors will want profit sharing. Learn about "points", gross vs. net. I'm not a finance whiz, but there are many wonderful articles online to help you make sense of it all and help you converse smartly with your potential investors.  
  • Comparisons - list 4 to 5 movies in your genre that are comparable in budget and audience niche, list their budget/gross intake/awards. IMDB, BoxOfficeMojo.com, and the-numbers.com are great resources.
  • Distribution - talk about what you're going to do with your film once it's complete.  How are you going to get it out to the world? Festivals, markets, theaters, dvd, Film Annex - essentially, how are investors seeing their money again.
  • Closing Arguments - I wrote a little blurb at the end about why TITANIA is being filmed in New York. I spoke about the states tax incentives, the "Made in NY" initiative, and how amazing NY cast and crews are.  
  • Lastly, make it pretty - put a few photos in there from screen-tests or storyboards, something to give them a visual. (Investors like visually beautiful films because it means better dvd sales.)

We've also brought someone on board to help us get sponsorships: A local restaurant to donate food in exchange for credit, a jewelry company may want to donate accessories for my fairy queen and use photos in their advertising from the film.  All those things cut down your budget.

I also recommend joining IFP. The Independent Feature Project is a fantastic resource for learning, connecting, and getting discounts.

Lastly, this article on what investors really want to hear, is extremely helpful! http://www.chrisjonesblog.com/2013/05/the-film-investors-check-list-%E2%80%93-answers-to-tough-questions-your-investors-will-ask.html

So, all of our ducks are in a row, our fingers are crossed and we're off! Our permit was approved to film on our location on April 28th - so we've got a goal date in front of us.

I'd love to hear what else you do to attract individual investors, and how you've gained success in film financing. 

Wish us luck!!  Lisa

You can watch my TITANIA director's reel below or where linked to TITANIA above:



About the author

InByTheEye

I'm Lisa Stock, a writer and director based in New York. My films include “The Silent Nick and Nora”, “The Jules Verne Project”, and “HELL”. My work has been featured in festivals and screenings around the world including Cannes, London, New York, New Orleans, Tel Aviv, and Sao Paulo. I’ve…

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